Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Give Me More Music, Music Music...

By Beth Skarp

If I were to ask you to name just ONE Disney song to start singing right now, what popular or perhaps not so popular song would you start singing and possibly dancing to? 

My song of choice was Let's Go Fly a Kite” from “Mary Poppins”, but chances are you may or may not have been thinking of “Let It Go” from “Frozen."

What makes for a great Disney movie? Is it the story line, the animation, or the music?
I am beginning to think that perhaps the music is what makes the movie. 

I wanted to know which Disney movie holds the title to date for having the most music associated with it. Without doing an online search, can you name which movie, a Disney classic, holds this title? I had no idea until I looked online and discovered the movie was “Alice in Wonderland”. Now here is a real test of a Disney lover...name a song from this movie!

Did you think of an “Alice in Wonderland” song? Chances are, you came up with “The UnBirthday Song” , “I'm Late” or the opening theme song of “Alice in Wonderland”. Those were the only songs I could recall when thinking about the film.  

In all, thirty two songs were originally composed for “Alice in Wonderland”, but only twenty songs made the cut for the official movie soundtrack. Why do you suppose Walt Disney himself went to such great lengths to compose so many songs of such a wide variety for a single movie? 

The answer is quite simple actually. When Reverend Charles Dogdson, who used the pen name of Lewis Carroll (the author we know of for writing “Alice in Wonderland”) wrote these stories, they were intended to be read as short little snippets or bed time stories. Carroll had a vivid imagination and created many characters within his various stories. Many of the characters that Carroll created did not readily lend themselves from one story line to the next. Simply stated, there was no real continuity to Carroll's stories in his books. This posed a bit of a problem for Walt and his production team, since the works of Carroll were so unlike other well known author that Walt used as template of sorts for this earlier movies such as “Snow White." 

Walt presented the works of Lewis Carroll to his animators and writers, sharing his ideas for the possibility of a making a feature film. Using a bit of musical as well as animated whimsy, the story line was able to segue from one thought to another without the fear of being too disjointed or choppy.

Walt had a great pool of musicians from which he could draw for musical talent. Bob Hilliard & Sammy Fain collaborated on the scores to two early 1950’s Walt Disney animated features. Fain was the composer while Hilliard tended to be the lyricist. Another talented composer, Sammy Cahn, teamed up with Bob Hilliard & Sammy Fain for the music to "Your Mother and Mine" and "Second Star to the Right." While these songs were nicely composed and had memorable lyrics, they did not flow with the story line for “Alice in Wonderland.” 

“Peter Pan” was in production during the same time “Alice in Wonderland” was also in production. Not wanting to waste great talent or good music, the songs of "Your Mother and Mine" and "Second Star to the Right" were recycled into Peter Pan with more memorable results.

In fact, “Beyond the Laughing Sky” was the song originally suggested for Alice to sing during the opening scenes of the movie. Instead, the theme song, or the song we hear Alice singing in the very beginning of the movies became instead “In a World of My Own."

As one reads the twenty songs listed as the official soundtrack for the movie, it is a little bit easy to wonder if in fact you actually heard the various musical numbers or not. Some of the songs are a mere jingle of only a few seconds. The ones you actually remember are catchy tunes that you remember for the music as well as the sometimes silly words.

The film soundtrack was first released on vinyl record back on July 28, 1951. I may be one of the few who actually still has a copy of this record someplace in our collection. The song titles for the record included the following titles:

“Alice in Wonderland”--sung by the Jud Conlon Chorus and the Mellomen

“In a World of My Own”--sung by Alice

“I'm Late"—sung by the White Rabbit

“The Sailor's Hornpipe”--sung by the Dodo

“The Caucus Race”--sung by the Dodo and Animals

“How Do You Do”--sung by Tweedledee and Tweedledum

“Shake Hands”--sung by Tweedledee and Tweedledum 

“The Walrus and the Carpenter”--sung by Tweedledee and Tweedledum

“Old Father William”--sung by Tweedledee and Tweedledum

“Smoke the Blighter Out”--sung by the Dodo and the White Rabbit 

“All in the Golden Afternoon”--sung by The Flowers and Alice 

“A-E-I-O-U”--sung by the Caterpillar 

“Twas Brillig”--sung by the Cheshire Cat 

“The UnBirthday Song”--sung by the Mad Hater, March Hare, and Alice

“Very Good Advice”--sung by Alice 

“Painting the Roses Red”--performed by the Playing Cards but sung by the Mellomen and Alice 

“Who's Been Painting My Roses Red?” (Reprise)--sung by The Queen of Hearts and the Playing Cards (Mellomen) 

“The UnBirthday Song”--sung by the Mad Hatter, March Hare, The Queen of Hearts, and the Playing Cards (Mellomen) 

“The Caucus Race” (Reprise)--sung by The Entire Cast minus Alice 

“Alice in Wonderland” (Reprise)--sung by the Jud Conlon Chorus and the Mellomen 

If you wish to count them, you will find that exactly twenty titles appear on the official listing for the soundtrack.
After doing a bit of research, I did manage to find the listing of the songs written for the film but not used for one reason or another. For your enjoyment, here is that listing:

“Beyond the Laughing Sky”. This was replaced with “In a World of My Own”--sung by Alice. “Beyond the Laughing Sky” was later turned into “The Second Star to the Right” and is a featured song in “Peter Pan.”

“Dream Caravan”--sung by The Caterpillar. This song was replaced by “A-E-I-O-U” 

“I'm Odd”--sung by the Cheshire Cat. This song was replaced with “Twas Brillig” 

“Beware the Jabberwock—sung by Stan Freberg, Daws Butler and the Rhythmaires. Since the character of the Jabberwock was deleted from the film, the song was deleted as well.

“So They Say”--sung by Alice 

“If You'll Believe in Me”--sung by the Lion and the Unicorn which were deleted characters.

“Beautiful Soup”--sung by the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon. This song was set to the tune of “Blue Danube” and had already been used by the Walt Disney Company in two cartoons recently released at the time (Jungle Rhythm and Night). The character and the song was removed from this film.

“Everything Has A Useness—meant for the Caterpillar to sing to Alice while attempting to explain the usefulness of everything, or in this case the use of the mushroom. 

“Curiosity”--no one seems to know why this song was written or why it was deleted 

“Humpty Dumpty” 

“Speak Roughly To Your Little Boy”--this was from the original works of Lewis Carroll depicting a grotesque character from one of the stories. Walt felt the music and the character may be too inappropriate for young children, including his own daughters Sharon and Diane Disney. Because of this, both the character and music was deleted 

“Will You Join The Dance”  

If you were counting, you will notice that an even dozen or 12 songs were written that were not used for “Alice in Wonderland”. This brought the total number of songs composed to thirty two.

One of biggest criticisms for “Alice in Wonderland” was that it was in essence a series of short cartoons or story sketches loosely pieced together. Walt himself felt he had let his audiences down, that this was a feature that truly had no heart to it. Walt was not a huge fan of this particular movie, and almost didn't release the film for theaters.

However, movie goers tended to love the characters and the whimsical music associated with “Alice in Wonderland”. This fact alone is probably what has helped keep “Alice in Wonderland” a beloved Disney Classic.




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